The Lost One:
A Life of
The Lorre family very generously opened
their photo album to me. Some pictures were graciously given, others I
copied and returned. On one of my many visits to California, Cathy pulled
a box from a closet. I was dismayed to see that the bottom half of what
appeared to be a greasy tool chest contained a stack of her father’s
photos. Many were movie stills and publicity photos.
However, there were also multiple copies of a series of formal studio
sittings taken by a Fox photographer in 1936-37. The fact that they survived
his many moves over a period of nearly thirty years told me they held a
special interest for him.
Except where noted, all photos are from the collection
of Stephen Youngkin.
For a larger image, click on the thumbnail.
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Peter Lorre calling home? Deciding where to live in Los
Angeles generated friction between Peter and Celia. Always protective of
his privacy, he preferred to live as far as possible from the Hollywood
studios. She, on the other hand, knowing that her husband was not a good
driver, wanted to live close to his work. On the set of Mad Love
During filming of Mad Love (1935), Peter
chats with MGM contract player Maureen O’Sullivan, best remembered
for her role as “Jane” opposite Johnny Weissmuller’s
A series of photos depicting Peter Lorre having a bust
of himself made during the filming of Mad Love for MGM in the
summer of 1935.
The completed bust of Peter Lorre, 1935.
Dan “Danno” O’Mahoney, heavyweight
wrestling champion of the world (1935-1936), gives Peter Lorre a hard
time during a visit to Columbia Studios, 1935. The Irish wrestler was
on a tour of the West Coast that summer. Peter was a huge fan of
professional wrestling and frequently attended matches. A “thank
you” goes to Janet Fuentes for identifying “Danno”
Out with Italian actress Elissa Landi, an unidentified
woman, and Alan Mowbray. An English character actor of the “stiff
upper lip school” of British acting, Mowbray was also a founding
member of the Screen Actors Guild and sat on its Board of Directors. It
appears that Lorre’s hair is growing out after filming Mad
Love. June, 1935.
Peter Lorre getting a shave during filming of Crime
and Punishment (1935). Tonsorial treatments notwithstanding, Lorre
felt he was no match for the “extraordinarily handsome”
Raskolnikov. “If only I looked like Joseph Schildkraut,” he
confided to co-star Marion Marsh. “He was a very, very handsome
fellow. This is how someone should look.”
Peter Lorre makes time to study the script of Crime
and Punishment while readying for the day’s shoot. Co-workers
reported that the actor kept very much to himself during filming. Said
Marion Marsh: “He hardly spoke to anyone and I really thought it
was because of his English. It wasn’t very good. It was proper
when he did speak, but I think he was a little bit timid about
Peter Lorre clowns around on the set of
“Raskolnikov’s apartment” between shots on Crime
and Punishment (Columbia, 1935).
Josef von Sternberg directs Peter Lorre and Edward
Arnold on the “Inspector Porfiry’s office” set for
Columbia’s Crime and Punishment (1935).
To announce Peter Lorre’s upcoming role in
Secret Agent (1936), the American magazine Vanity Fair
made use of his distinctive appearance for the caricature (drawn by
Italian artist Paolo Garretto) and his screen image for the caption:
“That bland smile of his is ten times as nasty as the frowns from
lesser villains . . .”
Peter Lorre in make-up as “The General”
for Hitchcock’s Secret Agent (1936). Lorre seemed to be
fascinated with the owl. In the endpaper of Celia Lovsky’s diary,
he wrote, “Dear Untier, for 1936, the memorable year in which the
fairylike rise of the owl begins” and signed it with a sketch of
an owl. Peter also loved to amuse Celia with his owl faces. In fact,
the most prominently displayed photo of him in her apartment pictured
– in several images, side by side – making his famous day
and night owl faces. In Crack-Up (1936), he even worked the
“faces” into his portrayal of “Colonel Gimpy.”
Lorre and Sir John Gielgud perch on trunks behind the
scenes on Secret Agent (1936). Gielgud reported that Lorre was
nice to him in rehearsals, but in takes, expertly positioned himself in
ways that earned him a reputation as a scene stealer.
Alfred Hitchcock (center) directs Peter Lorre, John
Gielgud, and an unbilled actor on the set of Secret Agent
(Gaumont-British, 1936), as Lorre and Gielgud take a tour of a chocolate
factory acting as a front for espionage activities.
The wrap party on Secret Agent (Gaumont-British,
1936) was held in December, 1936, with a Christmas theme, complete with
“Father Christmas” (center). Director Alfred Hitchcock (far
right), John Gielgud (behind Hitchcock), Peter Lorre (in costume as
“The General” and standing behind the flag, “The
Poocha Cake”), and Madeleine Carroll are among the celebrants.
As Peter Lorre’s voice lent itself to comic imitation, so his
unique features – especially his eyes, which he described as
“soft-boiled eggs” – inspired caricature. Lorre was
gratified by impersonations, whether vocal or artistic. While Secret
Agent (1936) was in release in London, the artist Gitano created
a portrait of Lorre’s character “The General” for the
British publication The Bystander, a tabloid published weekly
by the Illustrated London News – using skeins of black
silk, a scarf, a gold earring, a boutonniere, and a tie-pin, in addition
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The Lost One: A Life of Peter Lorre (2005)
by Stephen Youngkin – now in its third printing and winner of the
Rondo Award for "Best Book of 2005" – is available in bookstores
everywhere, as well as these on-line merchants.
The Films of Peter Lorre (1982), also by
Youngkin, is out of print, but copies may be purchased through Amazon
and Barnes & Noble below. Interested in Lorre's radio and television
performances? Check out Radio Showcase and Movies Unlimited. Netflix has
Lorre movies for rent.
U.S. Amazon – Soft-bound
Amazon U.S. – Hard-Cover
Amazon Canada – Hard-Cover
Amazon Canada – Soft-bound
Amazon U.K. – Soft-bound
Amazon U.K. – Hard-Cover
University Press of Kentucky
Barnes & Noble – Nook and Hard-bound